Richard Gere advocates for the homeless and promotes new movie in Philly
Actor Richard Gere visited Philadelphia yesterday to attend a red carpet screening of his new movie “Time Out of Mind,” in which he plays a homeless man in New York City.
Before the screening, Gere attended a VIP fundraising reception for the Francis Fund at City Tavern in Old City. The special fund in honor of Pope Francis' 2015 visit to Philadelphia will help people in the region who are struggling with hunger, homelessness, and poverty.
Across the street at the Ritz East, the actor was joined for a panel on homelessness by the writer and director of the film, Oren Moverman, Sister Mary Scullion of Project HOME, and Dennis P. Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania.
Here’s what Gere had to say. His quotes have been edited for brevity.
About the film:
I’m deeply proud of this film. I think we told a story that honors the people who have been living on the street for whatever reason (…) and humanized the situation to the point where we identified a much deeper level than them as a homeless person. We identified [a homeless person] as someone who is one of us, who’s in our world, our community, our family.
About preparing for the character:
I didn’t construct an elaborate history of this person. We worked in a very intuitive way. We created the type of situations where we would all feel what’s going on without being told by language, by music, what kind of emotions we’re supposed to feel, but just by being in the moment with this guy in the real world.
About shooting the movie:
The two prime lenses were very long telephoto lenses and zooms, and the footprint of the filmmaking was from very far away. My job was just to be. With the camera that far away there was a certain freedom. I was invisible in New York. Because I was this character, people decided that I was a homeless guy, and didn’t look any further. It was a profound existential moment [of realization] about how completely surfaced our experience of each other is. We go primarily with what we see but our senses lie to us continuously because we are living in an echo chamber of our minds and prejudices. If Richard Gere can stand on the street corner and be treated like garbage… it is a profound lesson for me personally but I think it is for the audience as well.
About the solution:
There are all kinds of people in a shelter. It’s not one size fits all, and we have to have strategies that fit all kinds of different people. Housing, a room that is yours, a letter box with your name on it…that starts to reintegrate the personality so that you become effective in the world again. [You need to build] strategies that are taught to you by very patient people over and over again ... you can start building the life that you want, to be successful on your terms. Is that the cheapest way of doing it? Absolutely.
About avoiding homelessness:
There’s a wonderful program in New York that is very successful. There is money available if you can’t make your rent, a city agency that helps you get through a couple months. If people lose their housing, the downward spiral is extremely fast and to rehabilitate and fix the problem a year or two years or 10 years later what it costs us as a community is enormous.